Anti-piracy software endures growing pains

Following reports over the last few weeks that USF’s newly implemented anti-piracy software had been reporting users who were not downloading illegal files, the University has stated that such issues are common when introducing new software and that the problems have been resolved.

Early this semester, USF introduced the software – a combination of Red Lambda’s Integrity software and Enterasys’ Dragon product – as a means of monitoring peer-to-peer file sharing on the University’s network. Shortly after its implementation, the software began sending notices to the owners of computers it detected using illegal file-sharing programs. However, some of those accused had done nothing wrong.

“I received an e-mail telling me I was busted,” said Louis Reich, a freshman engineering major. “The e-mail told me that a computer linked to my e-mail address was caught using a P2P program and that my network capabilities were suspended. The only problem was that I didn’t use P2P file-sharing software. Not just on the campus network, but ever.”

Upon contacting the USF Incident Response Team, Reich was told that it was most likely the Apple iTunes program he had installed on his computer that caused it to be reported. However, according to USF Chief Technology Officer Mike Pearce, the issues experienced with the program are more likely due to the short period of time it’s been installed than the software on the users’ computers.

“In the early stages – with the implementation of any software – you always experience some problems, regardless of how well you test it,” Pearce said. “When we initially brought up the Red Lambda software, we had some installation issues where a few people were flagged inappropriately. It didn’t result in any real problems other than the users being redirected to acknowledge that they were using a sharing protocol.”

Red Lambda CEO Gregory Marchwinski called the issues the software has experienced at USF a “learning curve,” which he said is common when implementing software on a new network. The core of company’s Integrity software has existed for four years, while the latest version is less than a year old Marchwinski said.

The software was created at the University of Florida under the name Icarus before Red Lambda commercialized the product and changed its name to Integrity. The software is now being used at five universities around the country, including UF and USF, he said.

The number of calls the University has received reporting false positives by the software has fallen recently, and he is confident that USF is past the initial stage of problems with Integrity, Pearce said.

In light of privacy concerns brought up by the implementation of the network monitoring software, Pearce also wants to make it clear that the Integrity software is not designed to detect the transfer of illegal or copyrighted materials. Instead, the software should detect the use of a file sharing protocol that could potentially be used to download and share illegal files, he said.

“(The software) doesn’t look at the file and determine whether it’s copyrighted or not copyrighted,” Pearce said. “What we look at is that a certain type of protocol is being used which could result in downloading copyrighted material. We leave it to the individual users to determine whether their sharing copyrighted material.”

The primary aim of the University is to inform its users when a file-sharing program is detected and allow the individual to determine the proper course of action, Pearce said.

“Our approach to this is about informing you that you’re using a file-sharing protocol and leaving it up to the individual user as to the appropriate use of that (software),” he said.